“The sheer magnitude of that one day makes it near impossible to respond to such a simple yet deeply profound question. Suggesting that 9/11 changed everything cannot adequately be communicated without resorting to exaggeration; suggesting that it did not, sounds little more than flippant or dismissive.
Whilst it might seem strange to make such a link but watching the riots in London and elsewhere the pastfew nights made me recall something I wrote following the death of Jade Goody. At the time, I wrote about how British society had been shaped by:
“…a decade of New Labour superficiality; the growth of the cult of celebrity; the veneration of its most shallow idols; the adoration of excess and greed; the voyeurism of schadenfreude; the cultural antipathy towards intellectualism; and the nihilistic and myopic rejection of social and personal morality…”
I spoke of how Jade Goody’s:
“…followers will look up to her, aspire to the material trappings that so clearly failed to bring her happiness, and to wish that they too were like her. More so, they will wish that their children were like her”
Look beyond the tragicomic death of a Z-list ‘celebrity’ and much of what we have been watching unfold in Tottenham, Ealing, Clapham, Croydon and everywhere else is symptomatic of the very same things: the reality of today’s Britain.
We are witnessing groups of young people driven by the ‘adoration of excess and greed’ opportunistically and irresponsibly loot and destroy, perpetrated by those who are the products of a ‘nihilistic and myopic society’ that decades before rejected ‘social and personal morality’. These young people – like the vast majority of their peers – believe that the wholesale acquisition of the latest material trappings – the Adidas trainers, the Blackberry mobiles, the Samsung flat screen tvs and more – will make their lives better, happier, sexier, more attractive and whatever else they are fed by the advertisers in their relentless drive to shift the latest iPad 2, 3 4, 5 and 6. If the sales continue, to infinity and beyond.
A recent story in the Guardian entitled, Ban homophobic clerics from mosques, gay rights campaigners urge has prompted much heated debate on Facebook and no doubt various other websites.
I am not surprised by this. A few years ago when delivering a guest lecture at a Muslim institute I had two young Muslim men get up and walk out when I had the audacity to mention that discriminating or prejudicing against gays and lesbians was unacceptable in any circumstance.
Likewise this year, I made a very similar statement at an event organised by a Muslim organisation. So incensed were five young Muslim men in the audience that they approached me after the event to angrily try and convince me that it was perfectly acceptable for them to hate – and indeed punish – gays. When asked why, they replied by explaining that gays were “sinners”.
At the weekend I had the honour of being invited to speak at and then chair, Inspire’s “Speaking in God’s Name: re-examining gender in Islam” conference. Aside from engaging with a range of forward-thinking and inspiring women – many of whom are seen to be contentious and controversial by some – Inspire used the event to launch it’s Jihad Against Violence.
In a bid to reclaim the term jihad from extremists, Inspire’s campaign seeks to combat all forms of violence placing a particular emphasis on crimes including terrorism, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation: all crimes that some attempt to justify in the name of Islam.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, today pre-empted the publication of the revised Prevent strategy by criticising universities for their apparent “complacency” in tackling radicalisation and Islamic extremism on campus.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, May said:
“I think for too long there’s been complacency around universities. I don’t think they have been sufficiently willing to recognise what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalisation that can take place. I think there is more that universities can do”
Further to the Tehmina Kazi article on the Guardian website and its reference to my book, just noticed that another article by Duncan Sanders from the Museum of London has referenced some of my writing. This time it’s my article for Speak Out magazine on the Carry On films.